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Car reviews - Subaru - Impreza - WRX sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Its sheer performance for the money
Room for improvement
Not the last word in refinement... but who cares!

27 Jun 2003

ANY car company serious about its profile has an image building model - something special that showcases the marque's ability to produce an exciting car as well as bread and butter models.

Holden has its HSV connection and Ford has Tickford to produce its special vehicles, raising the Commodore and Falcon above the mundane.

In Japan, Toyota with its Celica GT4 and Subaru with the Impreza WRX have produced flagship models with a performance image that tells the public the company can build seriously competitive cars.

Not surprisingly, many of these top line models are used in motor sport competition.

The Subaru WRX was developed to win the World Rally Championship and succeeded in doing so against the might of Ford and Toyota.

Although the cars that win world championship rallies are highly modified, the base car must be available to the public in sufficient numbers to be a serious market competitor and the WRX is such a car.

The Subaru WRX is based on the standard Impreza and is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatch.

Although the Impreza comes in two or four-wheel drive versions, the WRX is only available in all-wheel drive.

It has a turbocharged, twin overhead cam, 2.0-litre, four- cylinder engine, five-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels, four wheel disc brakes, all independent suspension, larger wheels and tyres and an impressive array of extra equipment.

The powerful engine is a flat four boxer design, turbocharged with intercooler to cool the inlet air for the engine and improve efficiency.

The five-speed gearbox - no auto available - has a high fifth gear for quiet and economical fast touring, although the car will accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in a rapid 7.4 seconds.

The suspension is by MacPherson struts, coil springs and anti- roll bars while the brakes are power-assisted discs all round - ventilated at the front - with an anti-lock system.

Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion with 2.9 turns lock to lock.

Wheels are 15 inch, shod originally with 205 / 55 series Michelin radials.

Inside, the Impreza has cloth-covered seats which do not offer particularly good support for a sporty sedan, although the rear seats are more comfortable.

Looking through the attractive four-spoke steering wheel there is a speedo, tachometer and fuel and temperature gauges, with electric window controls handily placed on the door near the right hand.

Radio and twist-type ventilation controls are mounted in the centre console. Level of finish is high.

Outside, the WRX is obvious by its large air inlets at the front encompassing a pair of fog lamps, bonnet air scoop and rear spoiler integral with the boot lid.

Appearance is purposeful but understated.

The standard equipment list includes anti-lock brakes, air- conditioning, alloy wheels, central locking, power steering/mirrors/windows and a radio/cassette player.

The WRX is at its best when being used hard. It is a sporty car and the very impressive engine performance is matched by secure handling, powerful brakes and superb traction thanks to the all- wheel drive system.

The ride is firm and the steering, although light at low speeds, gives good road feel. With its enormous mid-range torque, the WRX is a rapid point to point car.

Subaru has an excellent record for reliability but have a prospective buy checked over thoroughly as these cars are prone to be driven hard by young and enthusiastic owners.

Wear in the suspension joints, heat marked brake discs, worn clutch and scuffed tyres are all signs the car has been driven hard.

The Subaru Impreza WRX is a wolf in sheep's clothing. While not as flamboyant in appearance as some of its rivals, it offers impressive performance while at the same time having an excellent equipment specification - the ideal compromise between high performance and practicality.

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